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The Beginning March 6, 2015

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:10 pm
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There is something that happens when your system settles into a place that it trusts. A place it doesn’t visit often, but it knows the way you know the creaks in the floor of the hallway upstairs in your childhood house, or who is coming up the stairs by the sound of their footfall. Your body knows this place, relishes this place, seeks this place out despite our greatest efforts to be anywhere but there.

It is a quiet place, this settling. It is nourishing and peaceful. And if you stay there long enough you begin to see that there is something even beneath the quiet. Some steady pulsing, slow and rhythmic, like the heartbeat of an ocean you once knew. The quieter you get, the louder it becomes. Maybe it starts in your solar plexus, beneath the quivering you feel just below your sternum. And slowly it spreads from here, spiraling outward until even the furthest reaches of your pinky toes feel full of this pulsing, feel full of presence.

And this fullness then begins to grow, to push out, to expand the boundaries of your body that you once thought we so solid. But in fact, here you are in this minute, growing, expanding. And in this expansion you feel a strength, a force moving beneath the pulsing, filling up these new boundaries. You push, stretch, breath, fill your lungs and feel that center point of the spiral soften to allow for more depth, more expansion. It is courage, yes, but deeper than that even, it is a trust in the strength that is coursing through every cell in your body. It is a trust in your ability to repair. It is a trust in your ability to inhabit your body. It is a trust in your inherent resiliency.

This, my friend, is a trust in your deepest capacity – for growth, for healing, for movement, for love, for repair, for presence. This is where we all come from.

 

Seeking embodiment in a foreign land February 24, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Gratitude,Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:41 am
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“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” ~ Pema Chodron

It’s not just because I am settling into the town that is also the exiled home of the Dalai Lama that the quote from Pema Chodron resonated with me this morning. This land that I find beneath my feet these days, this foreign soil that no matter how much it reminds me of other places that have felt like home, continues to feel foreign; the sights that assault and delight my eyes, the suffering that meshes with the celebration. My system is learning embodiment in an entirely new way.

It is learning what it feels like to shut down in the face of beauty because the memory of suffering is too close to the surface. It is learning that all the time that I spend talking about universality doesn’t amount to anything if there isn’t some sort of embodiment to back it up.

I am moving in cycles with this traveling. I am moving towards myself and away from myself, towards others, away from others. Towards universality, away from universality straight into the arms of ego.

But these cycles are teaching me something, something I didn’t even realize I needed to learn until it landed in my lap in a moment of intense agitation and discomfort this morning. You see, I am fantastic at the mental part of path-walking, process-working, evolution. Super fantastic, even. I can explain my way in and out of all kinds of mental states. And yet, when it comes to embodiment, I am woefully unskilled. Unpracticed may be a better way of putting it. In the throes of trauma some years ago, my mentor at the time said to me that the mind understands things well before the body. I “got” that then, I understood it in my head and even had moments of understanding it in my body. But it wasn’t until this afternoon, damn near 4 years after that conversation, that I began to understand the slow trickle of embodiment. Or rather, the potential slow trickle. I know some people for whom embodiment is the first place they go and intellectualizing comes later, if at all.

But for me, it’s slow and I am learning how much resistance I have put up to embodiment. How much it scares me in some way. It scares me because if I’m feeling then I’m feeling and if I’m feeling  then I must certainly be bringing whatever it is I’m feeling into the world around me, infecting the space around me. Dramatic, I know. But it inspires a lot of the resistance I have to being embodied.

And so India, in all its suffering and splendor has become my classroom. It is the place that is forcing me, sometimes gently sometimes harshly, to embody these principles I have long talked about, long intellectualized.

And the reason India is doing that so strongly is that the essence of embodiment is presence. Yes, there it is, that word again. I cannot embody something, I cannot allow something to permeate me, to be felt in my body and not just thought in my head, if I am not present. And in this time of travel, all I really can do is be present. This is a foreign place, I don’t have the distractions of home to pull me away. I am constantly taking in, observing, engaging, participating, absorbing, seeing, smelling, walking, feeling, hearing. I am in a sensory soup, and I am present to all that my senses are engaging with. To a degree that is sometimes exhausting.

I should clarify here. In truth, I’m actually pretty good at embodying the good stuff. I’m pretty good at feeling whole and grounded in myself when experiencing joy and elation and bliss. That’s not all that hard for me. It’s learning to embody the darkness. To not contract against the pain or the sadness, but rather give it its due, give it it’s space to be and exist and move on. When I am not in a space of embodiment, I contract against those challenging feelings, I don’t give them space to exist and I don’t give them space to move.

But in this journey through foreign lands, with only my own mind and my partner for daily contact, I am beginning to learn that until I am able to be in a space of embodiment, I will simply wear down these grooves that my mind creates by thinking things, rather than allowing space to feel things. And at some point, if I keep that up, I will get stuck in those grooves and it will be that much harder to get out and to do things differently. India has shown me my edge, my plateau, that place that I’ve come to in my daily life that I will not move from until I begin a practice of doing things differently.

But, lord, what an intense place to learn about presence. How do I allow myself to be present with the child splayed out on the ground with a bloody bandage over it’s head while it’s mother sits by begging from the constant stream of passersby heading into the train station? How do I allow myself to be present to the people whose livelihood centers around other people’s waste? How do I allow myself to be present to the charred remains of a man’s pelvis as it is taken from the ashes of his funeral pyre and thrown into the Ganges? Is it really possible to allow those experiences to be felt in my body knowing that they are just as real on this plane of existence as the fullness my heart felt at the sound of a little girl giggling after an exchange, or the kindness of strangers on countless train rides?

Because that’s what I’m learning. My movement, my openness, my embodiment of both the light and the dark is how to transcend all of it on this path of joy and compassion. And it isn’t easy, but travel is a constant practice of presence and so here I am. Engaging in this practice of learning to embody my experience, this experience of existence. I am learning to allow myself to remain open just a split second longer than I would like to, to resist my own resistance for just a moment, to let a little space in for a little light or dark or both. To step into the embodiment piece of this existence with wholeness and compassion, and to allow for the joy that I know is beneath all of it.

 

 

Theory and Practice. Talking and Walking. March 26, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:23 pm
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Theory and practice. Lately I’ve been finding myself aware of this pairing – not a binary or a dichotomy and certainly not hinting at any sort of mutual exclusivity, but two friends I tend to meet for coffee pretty regularly these days. Theory is better about showing up. Theory is always on time and guaranteed always has plenty to say. Theory is easy and comfortable to be around, even when it’s challenging. Theory and my head are like two peas in a pod. We can talk until the cows come home about what it means to live open-heartedly and what it looks like to step into vulnerability. We’re really good about talking about that…

Practice on the other hand. Practice is that sometimes-flakey friend who is pretty much always late and only really shows up because we’ve had to have a few conversations about its reliability. Practice and I generally get a cup of tea (we gave up coffee 4 months ago) in our to-go cups and go for a walk.

Theory and I talk. Practice and I walk.

And sometimes I don’t want to walk. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to engage with practice, so I choose sides and hang out with theory and it’s more comfortable.

But lately I’ve been getting…bored with theory. I know, I know! How is that possible?! Theory is entertaining and engaging and exciting and stimulating. All of that is true, certainly. But theory lacks action and as Spring has decided to show up big time here in Boulder, my body is needing action. Shake off the winter, stretch and move and clear the hibernation from my system and get back into the practice of living, of being in this world.

So practice and I are meeting more regularly lately, and theory comes along too, and the three of us are engaging in the process of what it means to unite theory and practice – have practice teach me how to integrate theory – and live from that place. It’s exciting, actually. And challenging. Hanging out with practice sometimes feels like moving my body in a new way. Like I’ve had an injury that I’ve been guarding, but it’s healed now and I am learning this new mobility that is possible.

I was talking to a teacher of mine recently about something I struggle with and she asked me if my belief was really the way things are or if it was my circumstance at one point and is no longer. Of course, being the wise one that she is, she hit the nail on the head and it was another moment of recognizing the places that I still get stuck. Just because something was a certain way does not mean that it is still that way, but sometimes it takes reframing it and actively engaging with now to realize that things have shifted. Over and over.

So, here I go back to Theory and Practice. Theory can help us recognize patterns and learn how to repattern, but it’s practice more often than not that helps us see when we’re actually somewhere new. That what we’ve always held that we’ve known is in fact different. Because by engaging with practice we’re actively participating in the evolution of our lives. Practice is integrating theory into our systems and living from that place.

Need a more concrete example? I went to yoga tonight. I’ve been going to this class now for about 3 months, my first foray into more advanced classes after 3 years of practicing yoga. I’m pretty diligent about it, but every Monday afternoon I get a little trepidatious. It pushes my edges, makes me feel uneasy, mostly because it invites in all of the really loud insecurities that I’m good at quieting when I stay within my comfort zone. But I started going to this class because it was time to move from theory to practice. Intellectually I’ve been exploring what it means to find my edge and to inhabit my body, to know my body and be present with it. But it’s hard to know what it’s capable of if I keep it comfortable, ya know? So in a way, going to this yoga class, with all the attendant uncertainty and self-doubt is my way of engaging with the practice of knowing and exploring my body as well as the Self that inhabits it that gets doubtful and insecure. It gives me a chance to be present with myself and to witness the voices that try to keep me from stepping outside my comfort zone. It’s rewarding like I’d never imagined. In part because I’m learning to integrate the theory of presence and self-awareness.

It’s hard. No two ways about it. Like I said, sometimes I don’t want to go for a walk. Sometimes I just want to cradle a cup of hot tea in my hands and talk. But that’s why practice is a practice, right? It’s not necessarily supposed to be easy and sometimes we’re really not good at it, but we keep at it. We keep at it and through that we learn how to show up for ourselves and we learn to trust that. We learn to see what’s right in front of us, to be with it, and we learn that there’s room for all of this – the talking and the walking.

 

Monsters and Demons…and Dinosaurs November 1, 2011

It’s All Saints Day today, the scattered detritus of a night of revelry strewn across the sidewalks in front of my house. Last night my door was visited by skeletons and vampires and a zombie or two, some politicians, a dinosaur, a few princesses and a clown. Halloween. In my typical habit of reading into meanings, this holiday in particular has got me thinking about monsters and demons and why on this one day during the year do we let them out of the closet to roam the streets.

What is it about the monsters that both frighten and inspire us? Perhaps Halloween has become such a significant holiday not just for the sugar rush, but also for the chance to look monsters in the face and not fear them so much.

A wise person I know said recently, “If you hate the monsters, you are just another monster.” And that has stuck with me as I visit with some monsters, both physically and mentally.  How do you find compassion for those parts of yourself or of others that terrify or anger you?

One of the fundamental pieces of CranioSacral Therapy is appreciation. Appreciation for the brilliance of the system, for the inherent health and for the inner physician. And this applies to pain. This applies to holding patterns and coping mechanisms that we’ve developed. This applies to the way we jump to judgment as a way of barricading ourselves and protecting ourselves from…ourselves. This applies to those moments when we are so triggered it’s all we can do to get out of bed. And it applies to nailing a handstand in yoga because we trust our body to hold up. It applies to recognizing the true extent of our capacity. And it applies to those moments of quiet when we feel rested and content in our bodies. All of this deserves appreciation because this is all our system exercising its intelligence.

But, I am not going to be the first to say, appreciating pain is about as difficult as having compassion for monsters. How do we soften in the face of fear and suffering? How do we trust that we do not need to hold so tightly to our armor, or our holding pattern, or our anger? What if we could learn to appreciate what those monsters have to teach us? What if we could find compassion for them and as a result for ourselves?

It’s a leap. It’s a leap that we’re not often willing to take, or perhaps not even aware is an option. So, on Halloween, we set lose our monsters, let them roam the streets, check things out, see what’s changed in the past year. Maybe we are a little gentler with them this year; maybe we see them in a different light. And I’d offer an idea. What if we don’t put them away, but let them hang out a little longer? Let them talk, let them rant, let them scream. And listen to them. Because those monsters are no different than the dinosaurs and princesses and clowns (ok, those are still scary to me) that also inhabit our lives. And they have just as much to teach us about what it means to be human.

 

 

I don’t know…gulp. April 19, 2011

Filed under: Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:16 pm
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So I had this amazing realization the other day: the world, this great big beautiful mix of land and water and air that we all inhabit, actually keeps on keepin’ on whether I am right or wrong. And what’s more, it does not in fact explode or implode or suffer any other form of mass destruction if I don’t know something. New flash, I know. But here’s the thing. I really don’t like being wrong. It’s not so much that I always have to be right, but I really don’t like realizing I’m wrong about something. It feels…uncomfortable. Because in my mind, I’m supposed to know everything, right? Which leads to the next realization – there are things that I don’t know. There’s actually quite a lot that I don’t know.  Yet, somehow I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m supposed to, and if I don’t, I’ve failed somehow. At what? I’m not quite sure. Being human?

But here’s the flaw in this thinking – ok, maybe there a few – being human actually entails not knowing. Because that’s how we grow, that’s how we evolve.

When you cut yourself, your body jumps into action and repairs that wound with a whole arsenal of things I’m not even going to pretend to know. The point is, after that repair, that patch of skin is actually stronger than it was before the wound. See where I’m going here? In our quest of perfection, or to not project, in my quest for perfection, I haven’t typically left a lot of room for myself to be wrong. And one of the problems with that is that when we’re wrong about something and we acknowledge it, we are often also given an opportunity to make repair, and through that repair we can strengthen what is there. So, to not allow for space for that, also means to not allow space for repair and strengthening.

So, in listening to this mind-blowing realization, I am playing with curiosity. I am learning to digest the fact that not knowing something doesn’t make me less of a person, nor does it make me bad or stupid. It simply means that I haven’t discovered something new just yet. And it’s a chance for me to play with curiosity.

In my work, while I have a great expanse of knowledge about the human body – it’s anatomy and functions – when a client presents an issue, the best I can do is use the tools that I have to hypothesize. In actuality, I don’t know anything about what is happening for them. I can’t. I’m not inside their body. I can’t really know what’s going on. But I can have curiosity and an openness to exploring that. I am in fact a much better healthcare provider when I surrender this idea that I know what’s going on and embrace whatever is in front of me with curiosity. In large part, because it makes me far more open to what may surface.  It also means allowing myself to not be perfect. Gulp.

In playing with this further, though, I think perhaps the most enlightened being are in fact not “perfect” but rather fully embrace the imperfections that are inherent in existing in this world – and by embracing them they are able to transcend them.

And while I in no way can claim enlightenment, I would like to offer you this piece that has come from these earth shattering realizations and the subsequent self-reflection and work I have been doing: all of our imperfections are simply opportunities. Opportunities for radical acceptance, opportunities for growth, opportunities for repair, and maybe even opportunities to learn something we didn’t already know. They present themselves to us everyday and everyday we are given the opportunity to get a little bit uncomfortable for the sake of our own growth and evolution.

 

 
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